After a game like Wednesday night's 4-1 loss to Cincinnati, Komets coach Al Sims has two choices. He could rip his team for some critical mistakes, some lazy play and being unable to finish at the net, or he could stay positive and hope for a better game Friday.
Sims chose to look ahead.
``I think it's our eighth game in 12 nights,'' the coach said. ``We're mentally fatigued, physically fatigued and we just weren't sharp around the net. Their goalie played unbelievably, I mean shots, rebounds, second rebounds, third rebounds, he was on top of everything. You know, just frustrated us more than anything, and then they get a shot that goes off our defenseman's skate and into the net, and that lets the air out of the balloon.''
With a win, the Komets could have gone to 7-5 at home this season and tied the Cyclones for second place in the ECHL's North Division. The outlook was good after the Komets' Thomas Beauregard scored 13:39 into the first period.
Then the Cyclones got going. With Brent Henley off for a slashing penalty, Cincinnati scored 17 seconds into a power play. The Komets tried to force some offense against rookie Cyclones goaltender Michael Houser, who was making his first pro start.
When Komets forwards Luca Caputi and Ryan Lasch failed to hustle back defensively, the Cyclones had a 5-on-3, and Josh Shalla scored on an uncovered rebound from the high slot. The Cyclones just missed on a glorious chance late in the second period when they raced into the Fort Wayne zone at the same time Caputi and Lasch were coasting out of the Fort Wayne zone, but Komets goaltender Charlie Effinger made the save.
Lasch also gave up a critical turnover at the Fort Wayne blue line early in the third period that led to a Cyclones 2-on-1 against Fort Wayne defenseman Ryan Hegarty. When Hegarty took the player without the puck, Cincinnati's John McFarland was able to score off Hegarty's skate for a 3-1 Cyclones lead. There was nothing Hegarty or Effinger could do without more help.
``It was kind of a wide-open game tonight, and both teams were living and dying by their transition,'' Komets defenseman Tyler Butler said. ``We're doing our best to minimize the big mistakes so they don't end up in the back of the net, but a couple of bad-luck plays... If we bury a few it's a different game.''
The Komets had plenty of chances offensively, but Houser finished with 29 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the Ontario Hockey League last year, but the Komets couldn't score on some great opportunities by almost every forward.
``We had tons of chances,'' Komets center Brett Smith said. ``The second and third goals were mistakes by us. That's how you lose games, you make mistakes and you run into a hot goalie. Whether it was us not finishing or him making saves, it was a frustrating one.''
Effinger played well to finish with 31 saves. He just needed some more help at and from the other end.
``If you're creating those kinds of chances, you're giving the effort,'' Sims said. ``If they weren't giving the effort, they'd be playing in our end all night. I just think we're mentally and physically fatigued right now, and tomorrow is a day off for everybody. Normally, we don't do that, but we're doing that to get a fresher team on Friday.''
The Komets are at Kalamazoo on Friday before hosting Trenton on Saturday for the last games before the Christmas break.